As the days get shorter, my thoughts turn to bitter drinks… actually who am I kidding? Ever since I first discovered the Negroni, it has been my go-to beverage no matter the season. That balance of sweet and bitter is perfect for sipping year-round. Sometimes with more ice in the heat of summer, sometimes with a different spirit (hello Boulevardier). So the annual return of Negroni week is always fun, offering a reason to explore all the variations and classic incarnations of that perfect cocktail. It’s a perfect excuse to explore perfect versions of the classic, which is equal parts gin, sweet vermouth and Campari, or variations. My own favorite calls for Aperol, Singani 63 (Steven Soderbergh’s booze) and Carpano Antico.
Marking its ninth year, the week was invented by Imbibe Magazine as both celebration of one of the world’s great cocktails and an effort to raise money for charitable causes around the world. Over that time the event has grown from about 120 participating locations to thousands of venues around the world. To date, the initiative has raised over $3 million for charitable organizations.
At Via Vecchia in Portland, Me., they are not messing around. The excellent Italian restaurant has dedicated an entire month to the cocktail, complete with a “Negroni Tour of the World” with a passport for guests to get stamped, track their drinking prowess. track their round-the-world progress
“For this year’s Negroni Passport, we chose to look at the Negroni as if it were created [by] different cultures,” says Mark Hibbard, beverage director at Via Vecchia. As is the case with all participants, proceeds from the drinks this year will be donated to Slow Food, a global movement of local communities and activists across more than 160 countries seeking to change the world through food and beverage, focused on comestibles that are is good for you, good for the people who grow them, and good for the planet.
Variations at Via Veccia include a Japanese Negroni, using Ginkoubai Hannya Tou —a sweet and spicy blend of sake and shochu infused with chili peppers. “In place of the traditional vermouth, we use a spiced plum wine, and top it with sparkling water to make it more like a Japanese Highball,” Hibbard says. The restaurant also offers a Sicilian twist, with Amaro del Etna and Salted Grapefruit Oleo Saccharum. (recipes below.)
For another international drink-around, visit Time Out Market, the popular food hall near Fenway in Boston. It has a plethora of options, albeit without the passport. Their five different negronis include: Self-Care, a pineapple-infused “Best Of Boston” Pot Stilled Rum, coconut-oil-washed Campari, housemade Velvet Falernum, Cinzano Sweet Vermouth, and lime bitters; Shake Señora, which uses Bulldog Gin, Ancho Reyes, Campari, orange, and lime; and the Boulevardier of Broken Dreams with Wild Turkey Longbranch Bourbon, Campari, Cinzano Sweet Vermouth, and Applewood.
Other Boston spots participating include Greek restaurant Committee, which is featuring the Torched Bearer: St. George Rye Gin spilt with Plantation Stiggins’ Pineapple Rum, Smith & Cross, bruleed pineapple & strawberry Campari, and Poli Sweet Vermouth. A spokesperson says it is, “Very true to the profile for a classic Negroni’s expected flavor, but there are some bright tropical and savory notes that pop out of it and finish in a more savory way.”
Over at Back Bay Social, try the Negroni Rosa: Bombay Sapphire Gin, Campari, Lillet Blanc & Sparkling Rose.
If you’re not in New England, or just want to drink at home, Via Vecchia’s Hibbard has offered recipes for a few of their offerings. Salut!
Via Veccia Sicilian Negroni.
1 oz. Bimini Gin
1 oz. Antica Torino Vermouth
.75 oz. Campari
.25 oz. Amaro del Etna
1 teaspoon Salted Grapefruit Oleo Saccharum
1.5 oz. Roku Gin
1 oz. Ginkoubai Hannya Tou (a sweet and spicy blend of sake and shochu infused with chili peppers)
.5 oz. Campari
Top with Sparkling Water
Slow Food, Imbibe, and Campari are joining forces to multiply our collective impact, our outreach, and perspective through the power of food, beverages, and hospitality. Slow Food has been chosen as the official Negroni Week giving partner because the organization addresses so many of the needs participating Negroni Week venues have been most interested in supporting over the past 10 years. This includes sustainability, education, equity, and diversity, with hospitality, food, and drink woven throughout. Slow Food also has a global footprint, with chapters and initiatives in countries and cities all over the world, and most fittingly, it is an organization with roots in Italy, the birthplace of the Negroni. Slow Food represents the ethos of Negroni Week to cultivate community, foster equity and justice, and seek a better world for all through food and beverage.